Nicholson Baker once spent a portion of his retirement savings to rescue first edition newspapers from being destroyed. He also fought to save card catalogues and to prevent library managers from sending thousands of books to landfills in their rush to microfilm.
He fought on behalf of all of us who think about what is lost when the specifics of a particular moment are worn away or forgotten or altered in the subsequent retellings of the original observations. It's kind of like a childhood game of telephone where the original message is passed from child to child until the last person relays a message with little resemblance to the original.
If Nicholson Baker's ten novels and five books of non-fiction have a common thread it is this: He likes to rescue things that are part of our daily lives but neglected - whether newspapers, toilet bowl design or paper towel technology. He writes in his first book, The Mezzanine:
People watch the news every night like robots thinking they are learning about their lives, never paying attention to the far more immediate developments that arrive unreported, on the zip-lock perforated top of the ice cream carton, in reply coupons bound in magazines and on the "Please Return This Portion" edging of bill stubs, on sheets of postage stamps and sheets of Publishers Clearing House magazine stamps, on paper towels, in rolls of plastic bags for produce at the supermarket, in strips of hanging file-folder labels.
Such is the wonderful mind of Nicholson Baker. Today, we spend an hour with him.
- Nicholson Baker - Author of ten novels including The Mezzanine, and six works of non-fiction, including most recently, Substitute: Going To School With Thousands of Kids.
Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.